Tag Archives: solar cell

Splitting Water: Nanoscale Imaging Yields Key Insights

Berkeley Lab researchers another step closer to reaping fuel from sunlight

In the quest to realize artificial photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel – just as plants do – researchers need to not only identify materials to efficiently perform photoelectrochemical water splitting, but also to understand why a certain material may or may not work. Now scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have pioneered a technique that uses nanoscale imaging to understand how local, nanoscale properties can affect a material’s macroscopic performance. (more…)

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New Path to More Efficient Organic Solar Cells Uncovered at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source

Why are efficient and affordable solar cells so highly coveted? Volume. The amount of solar energy lighting up Earth’s land mass every year is nearly 3,000 times the total amount of annual human energy use. But to compete with energy from fossil fuels, photovoltaic devices must convert sunlight to electricity with a certain measure of efficiency. For polymer-based organic photovoltaic cells, which are far less expensive to manufacture than silicon-based solar cells, scientists have long believed that the key to high efficiencies rests in the purity of the polymer/organic cell’s two domains – acceptor and donor. Now, however, an alternate and possibly easier route forward has been shown.

Working at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), a premier source of X-ray and ultraviolet light beams for research, an international team of scientists found that for highly efficient polymer/organic photovoltaic cells, size matters. (more…)

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Researchers Create ‘Nanoflowers’ for Energy Storage, Solar Cells

Researchers from North Carolina State University have created flower-like structures out of germanium sulfide (GeS) – a semiconductor material – that have extremely thin petals with an enormous surface area. The GeS flower holds promise for next-generation energy storage devices and solar cells.

“Creating these GeS nanoflowers is exciting because it gives us a huge surface area in a small amount of space,” says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. “This could significantly increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, for instance, since the thinner structure with larger surface area can hold more lithium ions. By the same token, this GeS flower structure could lead to increased capacity for supercapacitors, which are also used for energy storage.” (more…)

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Synchronized Lasers Measure How Light Changes Matter

Berkeley Lab scientists and their colleagues have successfully probed the effects of light at the atomic scale by mixing x-ray and optical light waves at the Linac Coherent Light Source

Light changes matter in ways that shape our world. Photons trigger changes in proteins in the eye to enable vision; sunlight splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and creates chemicals through photosynthesis; light causes electrons to flow in the semiconductors that make up solar cells; and new devices for consumers, industry, and medicine operate with photons instead of electrons. But directly measuring how light manipulates matter on the atomic scale has never been possible, until now.

An international team of scientists led by Thornton Glover of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) used the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to mix a pulse of superbright x-rays with a pulse of lower frequency, “optical” light from an ordinary laser. By aiming the combined pulses at a diamond sample, the team was able to measure the optical manipulation of chemical bonds in the crystal directly, on the scale of individual atoms. (more…)

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Yale Engineers Making Solar Power More Efficient

Innovations by a team of Yale University researchers could lead to improvements in basic solar power technology that result in lower-cost, higher-efficiency photovoltaic systems.

Photovoltaics (PV) directly convert sunlight into electricity. PV systems can be arrayed on rooftops to generate electricity for entire buildings, among other uses. Less expensive, more efficient systems could encourage broader use of this clean energy technology. (more…)

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